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A living legend returns to Vernon

Shanda Hill received a hero’s welcome after returning from her world record athletic achievement

The numbers are nauseating and almost unconscionable to understand.

Vernon’s Shanda Hill, the ultra endurance athlete, completed the DecaUltraTri race in San Felipe, Mexico on Oct. 20 to put a cap on an incredible athletic achievement.

The 41-year-old has become the first human to complete three Double Deca Ultra Triathlons.

A double deca is akin to running 20 iron-distance triathlons (76 kilometre swim, 3,600 km bike, 844 km run). Hill completed two in the span of 60 days, to go along with her triumph at a 2019 race in Mexico.

Hill became the first Canadian ever to complete a DecaUltraTri four years ago in Leon, Mexico, after 26 days of swimming, cycling and running.

This fall, she went back-to-back, completing the Buchs, Switzerland race in 26 days on Sept. 15 before jetting to San Felipe, Mexico on Sept. 23 for the ultra race there.

“I just thought, this is the demented athlete winning the lottery to have these races back-to-back,” Hill told the Morning Star, citing a quirk in the International Ultra Triathlon Association (IUTA) calendar to have two events so close together. “I didn’t know how I was going to pull it off when I committed to it. I just knew that this was something I wouldn’t see again for a really long time.”

Not only did Hill merely complete the two races, she won the Mexico event, while coming second in the Buchs’ race.

Over 100 supporters came to greet Hill for her achievements at the Elks Lodge on Oct. 29.

“It was honestly incredible,” Hill said. “I was blown away by the support.”

To top off her incredible two months, Hill was proposed to by her longtime boyfriend, Jacs Spence, at the airport upon arrival into Kelowna.

“I thought that the moment was right and I didn’t really hesitate to pop the question,” laughed Spence, who was the only person that Hill called throughout her journey, as Spence became the scribe on her social media to keep the public up-to-date with her feat.

“There were a lot of people that said she couldn’t do it,” said Spence. “But I thought she could, I was just worried about her emaciating herself.”

Hill remarked on the wonders of her body’s own healing powers throughout the races, citing a strong dedication to nutrition and hydration.

“The only thing that makes sense as to why I maintained my muscle mass, is when you’re taking in hydration and taking in the optimal amount of food, you’re oxygenating your body. Even though it needs to recover at some point, the only rational way I can think of getting away with three hours of sleep at night, is because you’re giving your body everything else it needs and there’s no other stresses. I didn’t have to think about the mortgage or anything besides the task at hand. It’s quite interesting that our body can do that.”

She did, however, hallucinate.

“It’s wild that your brain can do that without drugs,” Hill remarked. “You hang out with these ultra-marathoners and they’ve got some really freaky stories.”

Her wildest hallucination was seeing snakes at the bottom of the pool, during her swim in Mexico.

“That was scary because I’m not a fan of snakes at all, and I also think that the illusion that the pool was bending was not as much of a hallucination but more so from extreme fatigue.”

READ MORE: Vernon super athlete, Shanda Hill breaks world record

When she reached the finish line on Oct. 20 in San Felipe, Hill completed a grand total of 152 km of swimming, 7,200 km of cycling and 1,688 km of running, in a cumulative span of 1,262 hours, 23 minutes and 38 seconds. That’s akin to 52 and a half days of athletic movement.

“I never think about the full numbers. I think it is ridiculous as so many things can go wrong,” she explained. “But so many things have to go right. You have an entire month where you are stressing your digestive tract. It takes one really bad meal, or one fall to ruin it.

“You know it is going to hurt. If the hurt was going to stop you in the first place you should never do it. You have to anticipate it and rather than focusing on what the pain is, you have to say that the pain is just part of my day.”

Hill also remarked that she “doesn’t really” train for these events in a traditional way.

“I don’t think I can train for long distances. I don’t think it’s healthy, as the wear and tear on your body is what causes athletes injuries. I climb my peg board and push a sled, and what that does is give me the shoulder strength and muscle to be able to swim those long distances without an overuse injury.”

Upon reflecting on the incredible accomplishments, which includes a world record in the most long-distance triathlons completed in a calendar year, and a spot in the IUTA Hall of Fame, Hill is humble.

“If it makes one kid go out and reach something higher than they might have, or do something that they previously didn’t think possible then every single bit of pursuing of my dream and hours and money I have poured into it. That makes It worth it. I may never know the impact for 20 years.”

As for what’s next for Hill, another Double Deca is certainly in the cards, with the competitive woman looking towards Brazil in May of 2024.

“Alexandra Meixner, if that race is put on, she will be going,” said Hill. “She beat me this year in Switzerland as I had to hold back because I knew I was competing in Mexico afterwards. She is the fastest and the toughest female, a legend of the sport. I want to race and beat her, because I know I can.”

She also mentioned the possibility of competing in a Triple Deca, which has never been run before.

“In my mind I don’t look at it as impossible.”

READ MORE: ‘It’s limitless what you actually can do’: Vernon’s ultra athlete

READ MORE: Vernon’s Hill wins Mexican double deca, makes history

Bowen Assman

About the Author: Bowen Assman

I joined The Morning Star team in January 2023 as a reporter. Before that, I spent 10 months covering sports in Kelowna.
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